African Broadband

[As ever, this piece is on the BBC News website, where they called it ‘How Broadband is Changing Africa’, though I think the real message is that a broadband Africa will change the Internet…]

Norman Borlaug, whose work in Mexico and India led to the ‘green revolution’ in agricultural production, died last week and was widely commemorated for his important work.

While the introduction of new crops and the use of irrigation, fertilisers and pesticides certainly enabled us to feed millions of people, the crops were delivered at a price, and we should not forget it and Borlaug’s green revolution, like every revolution, had a negative as well as a positive side.

New farming practices create dependencies on machinery and chemicals, and the the patents that protect genetically modified crops limit the ability of farmers to do things like retain seed from one harvest to plant next year, forcing them instead to buy anew each year.

I was reminded of the debate over the green revolution this week as I stood outside my hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, and watched a work gang lay fibre optic cable in a trench they were laboriously digging with pickaxes on the other side of the busy road.

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Making Digital Planet in Nairobi

We’ve got another couple of days in Kenya, with some interviews lined up for future episodes of Digital Planet, but we finished off next week’s Connected Africa show last night.


Rory Cellan Jones is in Mombasa, on the coast, preparing his own reports, but I’ve been in Nairobi.

It’s been a remarkable few days, with some great people and even the odd giraffe

At the Giraffe Centre
At the Giraffe Centre

A nice hotel

Nairobi Safari Club
Nairobi Safari Club

And hard work for Gareth, writing the script

Gareth at work
Gareth at work

In Kenya for Digital Planet

One of the best things about working on Digital Planet is that I get the opportunity to visit places that I wouldn’t normally get to, and when I’m there I get to meet a lot of interesting people and talk about their work and their lives.

Yesterday I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, to meet up with Gareth and Michelle, and after a trip to the BBC bureau we spent some time at KBC, the main Kenyan broadcaster.

But the afternoon was spent at Kibera, the slum in southern Nairobi. It’s the largest slum in Africa, with a population of over one million, and being there was astonishing.


I don’t have time now to write about it, or what I thought as we wandered through the space where a million people carve out a life. But I will.

Kibera from the Ponoma FM building